Wednesday, September 19, 2018

In the 1890s, Sunday Evenings Meant Going Back to Church; For Young People, Sundays Also Meant Courting

In the previous post, Sarah Eva Howe described the typical Sunday morning service at the Methodist Episcopal Church South in Carrollton in the early 1890s. She continued with stories about Sunday afternoons and evenings, a time when teens of all faiths found excuses and opportunities to "court."

I left off in the other book with Sunday afternoon. At this time we didn’t have “Young People’s Meeting,” as we called it, on Sunday night but on Tuesday night, so when the various meetings were over, we had two or three hours of lovely Sunday afternoon left, to spend in the Sabbath calm, the absolute stillness, broken only by a few buggies going by in the soft flaky dust. (Papa1 didn’t quite think these Sunday buggy rides were a good thing, but he didn’t condemn them too much, having had a fine horse himself when he was a boy.) 

We had a supper of salt rising bread made by Mama,2 apple sauce, jelly and “cold sliced meat” with good country butter, sometimes tea, and at 7:45 were on our way back to church, where the fearful and wonderful “central chandelier” was lighted. (If you saw "The Phantom of the Opera House," it was very much like the one that fell, and we were always afraid this one would.) It was beautiful — with a big glass reflector and about twenty small lamps and many crystals hanging from it. Its one drawback was the multitude of light bugs that came and buzzed around it all the time the service was going on — pretty bad, too, for those who sat under it! We still had that chandelier until almost 1903, when the church was again thoroughly remodeled and electric chandeliers were installed. I believe we had electric lights in the church before that, but the chandelier was still there — perhaps it was wired for lights, now I think of it. I don’t know what became of it finally.

The night service was about the same as the morning, almost but not quite all of the same members present. ... A lot of the boys and girls came together to church at night, as in
Off to Church 
Papa’s day, tho they sat rather far back. Still other boys waited at the back of the church, in bunches, and sat in chairs at the back, and stood at the side to “pick off the girls” as they came in and “escort them home.” I remember Juanita Coltrane ... was visiting then. She was the first “Southern girl” I suppose I ever saw — dark, and in lovely clothes, with a picture hat and plumes; she was at church with Pierce Winslow,3 and I thought I’d never seen anyone so pretty; when they said her name was Juanita I was entranced, it just fitted her. (She is now Mrs. Garrison and is about 70!)

[Sarah inserts some comments about the young people who attended the Catholic church.] The young mill girls and domestic workers, almost all of them Catholics, used to dress in their best, go to Young People’s service at their church at 3 o’clock, and then pair off (many of the marriages were thus arranged) and go down to see the mail boats come in. This was a breathtaking scene, about four on Sunday, and sometimes the up and down boats came in close together. 

Let me tell you that the young girls and boys of “Society” did little more of an exciting nature on Sundays; most of the marriages were fostered by long happy summer evenings either on one’s own porch or in the yard, in porch chairs under the trees, or in the newly fashionable “lawn swings” beginning to be seen — I believe about ’92 or ’93.

Of course a buggy on certain occasions was a must. Many young men had their own or used their father’s, or hired one for other occasions, “going in together,” two boys taking two girls, and dividing the cost.

The Rest of the Week
After Sunday with its many and varied activities, the week was well started. ... Tuesday night was “Young People’s Meeting” attended and enjoyed by everyone under forty (and even over if they wanted to attend, and they often did). Up to 1892, it was a branch of the Christian Endeavor, ... but when Papa found out about the Epworth League, he was one of the pioneers (with C.C. Stoll of Louisville) in getting it started in Kentucky and was state Vice President (in 1895 I think it was), going to all the district and state meetings and to the “international” meeting in Chattanooga in 1895. ... The young people, especially young married people, enjoyed it so much in the early days. ...

Our prayer meeting was Thursday night, and we were all there, Mama playing, as usual.  ... It was very interesting and a wonderful “break” in the week, an inspiration to those who came, and there was a pretty good crowd who did, even a good many young people — mostly those whose parents brought them!

In the meantime, there were day meetings at the church — the first Monday of the month,
Styles worn by women and girls cira 1892
the Ladies Missionary Society, with Miss Sue Browinski as president, and on another day in the month the Parsonage and Home Missionary Society, of which Aunt Lou Howe3 was president and ruling spirit. (Aunt Sallie Goslee Howe4 was secretary of this society). The W.C.T.U. met on still another day. ...

There were no Women’s Clubs [in Carrollton], but about 1891, I suppose, Mrs. Henry Winslow5 insisted on forming a very serious Chautauqua circle, which really studied the course assigned. Mrs. Atha Gullion,6 co-editor of the Democrat, with her husband, had a bookstore on “upper Main” near Fifth, and just under the Winslow & Winslow law offices and next to the Carrollton National Bank. Miss Hallie Masterson and her sister Miss Emma were two other interested members, and Mrs. John Cox.

In Ghent, though, there was a Woman’s Club being formed by Miss Caby Froman,7 Uncle Mack’s oldest sister. She was distressed by the rather sketchy morals of the young wives, at least of some of them, around Ghent (for they were considered a rather gay act!) and thought that if they had more to occupy their thoughts with than dress and food (they had so many negro servants living in the town, no white lady ever did much housework). There was not much travel, except on the boats, and not much community life in such a place; so she formed a literary society called the “H. & P. Literary Society." 


1 Robert James Howe (1855-1910)
2 Alice Ada Cost (1859-1939)
3 Pierce Godbey Winslow (1873-1948), brother of Louisiana Winslow, who married Sarah's uncle William Ficklin Howe in 1873
4 Sallie Goslee (1858-1934), who married Sarah's uncle Joseph Brown Howe in 1889
5 Lucy Ann Cooper (1863-1950), wife of Henry Moore Winslow (1850-1932)
6 Nancy Atha Hanks (1844-1932), wife of Edmund Asbury Gullion (1853-1923)
7 Caby M. Froman (1892-1974), daughter of state senator Hiram McMakin "Mac" Froman and Sarah's aunt Sarah Varena "Sallie Howe Froman.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

A 'Soft Sunday Hush, the Distant Humming of Bees, the Sleepy Twitter of Birds' — Sunday Mornings at Church, 1892

Sarah Eva Howe recalls the beauty of the recently renovated Carrollton Methodist Episcopal Church South (1891-1892), where her parents, uncles, aunts, and grandparents contributed much time and considerable resources over the years. Her description of a typical Sunday service includes words and rituals still in use today at Methodist churches today.

The church was all done over around this time ... This is as good a place as any to tell about how beautiful it looked. The organ, that first year we were there ... was in the back part of the church up against the window, where the entry is now. There
was a door on each side, and through those doors decorously passed the members, divided into two groups, those who went up to the left side and those who went up the right side. That is where that cleavage started, which continued with us children even when both doors emptied into the same entry. Still, like the lemmings in Norway, we turned to the two staircases, just the same, tho we couldn’t go thru the wall, where the doors had been bricked up.

If the doors as they are now are typical ... the other way was also typical of the intense
One of the windows installed in 1891-1892
sectarianism of the time, for “never the twain should meet.” Many of the members upstairs had not been on the other side of the auditorium from theirs for many a day. The Howes always sat on the side next to our house, the east, and were rather peeved when this window1 was placed on the west side (tho they said nothing, but I used to sit and look at it and wonder about it). 

There is a beautiful window in the tower that no one ever sees now; it is never lighted from the inside at night, and of course no one looks at it from inside by day. In those days, tho, the tower door was open more often than not, so we could see it. I have stood by the bell rope (which went on downstairs when Frank Whitehead, the colored sexton — you remember him — rang the bell at 8:30, at 9:00, at 10:30, at 10:45 and a few daps at 10:55 and so on for all services on Sunday. ... The [wall]paper was brown (so as not to show dirt I imagine) and it worried me because there was a false alcove on the flat wall behind the pulpit; that is, there was the shaded appearance of one in the pattern of the plain paper. I have traced that alcove hundreds of times with my eyes, wishing that just once I could step inside it. I have now, for the organ and the rooms behind it have been put there, so that when I go in, I have a sort of “Back of the North Wind” feeling.

Before the organ was moved up there, the church was very square and flat, with rows of seats on each side making the “Amen Corner” where older people, slightly deaf or extra devout, would sit. When the organ was put there after the revolutionary door closing at the rear, all that was changed was that instead of two amen corners, there was just one — the choir sat facing the preacher sideways, on a slightly raised platform, on three or four benches set one behind the other. (No one ever sat on the front one unless there was a revival and an extra big choir.) 
Carrollton Methodist Episcopal Church circa 1895

You don’t remember the organ, which is now in the Ghent church, but it was a Pilcher organ and had a lovely tone when Mama played it! Mr. Pilcher supervised its “moving up,” and Mama became acquainted with him, as she was just taking over the organ then. (I am pretty sure now this was in 1891.) He showed Mama a little about the pedals, which so thrilled her; she was always trying them out after that — but always afraid she would step on the wrong one!

The floor was bare, but there was a strip of Brussels carpet up each aisle. One pew, I forget whose, had a strip of red carpet under it and a cushion on it; the lady there had said she was cold! We regarded this as the height of effeminacy, tho we didn’t consciously call it that. As to kneeling benches, of course, we had none; all except the sick, the hardened, strangers, or the fashionable (or perhaps infirm or old) knelt facing the pew. There was carpet on the double platform (one smaller, on a larger one) in which the pulpit stood, surrounded by the altar rail, at which we knelt for communion, and for prayers at different meetings. Tho there was no outward altar, I know that in the hearts of people like my father and many others there was surely an invisible one, before which they knelt at this rail. ...

However, the drabness of the church was transformed and glorified by the sunlight pouring thru the lovely windows, eight of them, and three at the back of the church. I’m inclined to think those were there always, tho the other windows were frosted white glass when we came. ...

I can close my eyes now and go back to that summer Sunday morning of 1892, with the lovely windows opened to let in the soft air (also bees and an occasional bird) and the scents from the flowers (at our house and yard) and the grass of the old, sweet churchyard, and the wild roses. There was a soft Sunday hush over everything, just the distant humming of bees (there was probably always a swarm in the tower, along with the pigeon’s nests) and the sleepy twitter of birds, then the soft drone of the preacher’s voice, or the organ music in the “voluntary,” “offertory” or “processional.” We had probably sung “Welcome, Delightful Morn” and meant it with our whole hearts. 

Then the “opening hymn” standing and the second hymn sitting (or the other way about, perhaps), then the prayer (ten minutes at least, and were those who came in and had to be seated after the prayer looked on with critical eyes!). Then the anthem, the lesson read by the preacher, the announcements, sometimes made by Uncle Will,2 a second hymn (sitting), the collection, while Mama played an “offertory,” then the sermon. The Gloria Patri was only sung on special occasions, generally to take the place of the Doxology which otherwise closed the service (plus the benediction). However, a good many ministers called for a final hymn, in which they “opened the doors of the church,” sometimes they sang one verse after another of this if it looked like more were coming, and some ministers had another prayer after the sermon, which could last another ten minutes. 

We never recited the Apostle’s Creed — it was just something on the back of the Sunday school magazines and in the back of the songbooks; it was just as well, for if anyone had mentioned The Holy Catholic Church3 at that time in our pews, half the congregation would have wailed in horror.

The “lesson” was generally quite lengthy, for they read the old and new testament lessons both, often from Deuteronomy and Romans, or Leviticus and Hebrews, and therefore hard for an eight-year-old to follow, tho I made a polite attempt, generally, but fell over against Mama’s shoulder midway.

Afterwards, we met ... in the back of the church, and then went home to such a good tho easily prepared dinner — sometimes taking company, or perhaps a whole family would eat at a brother’s or sister’s house and “spend the day,” or if the Presiding Elder was there, all would vie in inviting him home. He was “Brother” Vaughn for four years. (They told me afterwards to call him “Dr.” It was the first time I had known you could call a preacher that!) We almost always had a beef roast for dinner. Papa was felt to be extravagant in paying 40 cents for his, but we used it in “sliced cold roast beef” for three meals at least afterwards. ... He could slice it right across in such thin, lovely slices — he was an artistic carver. 


1Possibly the new stained glass window contributed by brothers William Ficklin Howe, Joseph Brown Howe, and Robert James Howe. William was married to Louisiana "Lou" Winslow, sister of William Beverly Winslow, who with his brother George Bohrum Winslow was instrumental in organizing the purchase and installation of new windows for the church in 1891-1892. (Source: Our Church: A History of the Carrollton United Methodist Church by Hallie Masterson)
2William Ficklin Howe, brother of Sarah's father
3In the Apostle's Creed,"catholic" is not capitalized; it means "universal."

Images courtesy Carrollton United Methodist Church, Carrollton, Kentucky.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Howes Travel to Middlesboro for the Christian Endeavor Convention of 1892

The Howe Family went to many church- and faith-related meetings and conventions. In today's post, Sarah describes their trip from Carrollton to Middlesboro, Kentucky. The trip involved travel by boat and train, and it didn't go smoothly. Still, it was pure adventure to 9-year-old Sarah Eva Howe. She wrote this memoir in the mid-1940s.

Undated Postcard, Middlesboro, Kentucky
I am not sure now which year we went to Middlesborough (as it was spelled then) and which to Louisville, to the Christian Endeavor Conventions; but I believe the Middlesboro trip was in June of ’92. Papa loved to go to these conventions in those days before he went to New York;1 they were such a break in the monotony of his life. He was never intended to be a businessman, tho he was a good one! He wanted to follow a profession and to have been a professor in a college. That would have been ideal for him. He was devoted to church work, too, and had many forward-looking ideas that were far ahead of his contemporaries.

So here I will put the trip to Middlesboro, even if I have it wrong by a year or two one way or the other. The main thing I remember about the trip was that it took all day to get started!

We must have gone to Louisville on the boat to take the train out of there for Middlesboro, but there had been a wreck on the line, and our train — which should have started at 8 a.m. — didn’t go till 5 p.m. ... We waited around all day. It certainly was tedious, and there was really no place to buy things to eat except a small country store; Papa bought bananas and such, and I remember his taking me for walks up and down the track and around. They didn’t get the wreck cleared away for seven or eight hours. When we finally started, the train went so fast it really must have gone a mile a minute, considered almost the limit at that time. How I remember the dark falling and the black landscape rushing by with the speed of the wind, it seemed to me. 

Finally I fell asleep and hardly knew when we got off and went to register at the big fine Cumberland Hotel, I believe it was called. This was a real boom town put up by coal
Postcard, Cumberland Hotel, Middlesboro, early 1920s
operators and speculators who hoped to make a city of the size of Covington at least, perhaps Louisville. Harrogate too, over in Tennessee, was built up. English money built a lot of the property, and much of it was lost when the bubble burst not so long before the time we went there. There had been a big fire, too, that swept much of the town and burned the shiny but un-outstanding frame buildings and also many of the little ones. Mr. Jim Fisher and his wife lived there, also Uncle Will and Aunt Sue Salyers2 and their family (tho Ida Ruth and Charles were all that were living by that time, perhaps not even Charles). There were several more fires after we left, and finally I think the beautiful hotel, then rather in disrepair, has burned too. But it was certainly pretty when we were there, tho not too full of guests until the “convention” came. 

I wore a jacket of Roman striped French flannel “pinked” on the edges and my favorite little dark red velvet round hat; my hair was in plaits but looked short from the front, so the hotel man said “Mr. Howe,3 the room is so-and-so, meals included, but we don’t charge for your boy.” That amused Papa, I know.

Characteristically, the thing that remains with me of the trip is the “outside” rather than anything about the convention. The trip up the pinnacle, Mama4 holding my hand firmly, oh so firmly, as I looked at the city of Harrogate so far below like a toy village from the overhanging rock, of the place where you could stand in two states at once “and spit in the other,” as someone said — Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky.
Modern-day Middlesboro viewed from the Pinnacle

But the most vivid memory is of Solomon’s Cave — my first “underground” experience. The formations are said to be more beautiful than many of those in Mammoth Cave, and there is a long narrow way where you have to crawl along, worse than the “fat man’s misery” at Mammoth Cave. There was very cold water dripping and flowing through it, which has caused the cave to be closed to visitors in later years, as the water supply of Lincoln Memorial College comes from these cold springs. There were wooden staircases that we went up and down, rocks we clambered over, and altogether it was very strenuous exercise. Going up the Pinnacle was easy, for it was not done on foot but in a big carriage with, I believe, four horses pulling about eight people in the carriage.

We came out into Cumberland Gap, the only time I ever set foot there, tho many times I’ve thought I’d visit there! — and the only thing I remember was a large white rat in a cage, which interested me, for it was the first white one I ever saw, and I did wish to have it! 

We took the train back home; on the way we met many friends. (I’ve heard Mama tell of them but don’t personally remember them.) I believe Uncle John Smith was aboard the train — perhaps he went down with us. There was a very tall slim young preacher with heavy black hair whose name was U.V.W. Darlington, who talked to us part of the time.

For days after our return, Mama was so stiff and sore from the unaccustomed climbing that she could hardly go up and down stairs and had to take the steps sideways, but I don’t remember it affected my short stocky legs in any way.


1 Robert James Howe and his brother Joseph Brown Howe traveled to New York City (and other large cities) to buy fashions to sell at the family's Howe Brothers Department Store in Carrollton, Kentucky.
2 William Levi Salyers (1860-1922), uncle of Sarah's husband of the same name; and his wife Susie Giltner Salyers
3 Sarah's "Papa," Robert James Howe (1855-1910) 
4 Sarah's "Mama," Alice Ada Cost Howe (1859-1939)